Review by masterchief6154

"Once in a generation"

Let me start by saying this is not the best game I've ever played. But you have to approach it from the right frame of mind. If you come in expecting an RPG, you will be disappointed. The objective of this series, however, has never been to be an RPG. It has been to be an RPG/TPS hybrid, with an amazing story crafted in part by the player. In that regard, this game finally gets it just right.

Now that we have gotten past that, this game is certainly one of the best games I've ever played. It is a game that answers practically all of the complaints of the previous installments, while simultaneously delivering a moving story. It is easily the best game of the series. And for those of you who don't remember, Mass Effect 2 was one of the great games of this generation.

OK, let's start with gameplay. This game improves upon the third person shooter elements to the tune of several upgrades. For one, the way enemies move around is a more convincing approximation of a real battle. They use simple but useful tactics such as flanking to make Shepard's life miserable. Secondly, cover mechanics have gotten much better. Having the flexibility to move around from cover to cover, without actually exiting the cover system, is extremely handy. Also handy is the ability to hop over cover without first getting down behind that cover. If you are a Gears of War veteran, this probably seems like no big deal, but if the only TPS you ever played is Mass Effect 1/2, this is a great upgrade.

So, now that Mass Effect 3 can compete with Gears of War in regards to the cover system, it needs to live up to other Gears of War staples. A huge one to pull off would be something akin to chainsaw kills, without being so over the top, and staying in the series' established fiction (after all, having chainsaws suddenly be attached to the front of every gun would be weird). Mass Effect 3 answers this demand, believe it or not, with the omni-blade. The omni-blade is an extension of the new melee system. A single tap of the B button allows you to swing the omni-blade at your targeted enemy. Holding that button pulls of one of many different heavy melee attacks, depending on your class.

The last thing that Mass Effect 3 adds that is related to Gears of War is the new multiplayer. Multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 does seem somewhat unnecessary, but it isn't ever detrimental to the overall experience. The multiplayer element is like horde mode, albeit a very generic version of horde mode. There are three enemy types, and six maps, along with 3 difficulty settings. There are 4 characters in each class that you can play as, for a total of 24 different characters you can unlock over the course of the game.

Multiplayer also can impact your story. In Mass Effect 3, there is a massive war going on. In this war, your main character will be collecting war assets for use in the final battle. Those assets are affected by the galaxy's readiness rating, however. The readiness rating is determined by multiplayer (unless you played the iOS app). The more multiplayer you play, the higher your rating. However, should you elect not to play multiplayer, or do not have access to multiplayer, the amount of points available in the game are enough that you don't need to play multiplayer to get the full single-player experience.

Then there are the guns. In single player and multiplayer, there are many different guns available to you. Each gun acts differently, and has different stats. Each gun can also be upgraded to level X, or 10. And, each gun can have two mods installed, with each mod being upgradable to level V, or 5. Again, I'd like to point out that each of these guns has different characteristics. One great example is the Mantis and the Raptor. Both of these are sniper rifles, but one is a single-shot rifle with great stopping power, while the other has many shots before exhausting a thermal clip, with much less stopping power.

Overall, I give gameplay a 10/10

Next up, we have story. This category is the one most fans of the series were looking forward to the most. In many ways, Bioware had an unwinnable challenge of their own making here. Many fans were expecting each and every choice they made to have some sort of effect on the actual ending. This is simply unrealistic. To be clear, your choices do matter, just not to the ending, and not to the tune of game-changing difference.

The story is presented from the get-go as a very gritty, emotional conclusion to the trilogy. The Reapers are finally here, and they are decimating Earth while you gather reinforcements to try to take Earth back. In the opening moments of the game, you get a sense for the peril facing the citizens of the galaxy. The danger level is high enough that characters are beginning to act differently. Characters that might have seemed ridiculous in games 1 and 2 can make worthwhile contributions in 3. Those same characters are scripted with an urgency that seems almost out of place for them, but then you remember that they are facing the end of existence. People apparently are ready to contribute when faced with annihilation.

Characters you met throughout the trilogy will be there, influenced by your choices, unless you killed them or your choices led to their death. And not in some menial form either. 2 previous squadmates, both of which could be killed in previous games, are available as squadmates again in Mass Effect 3. Several other squadmates are available for one or two missions, as well as a meet-up or 3. They have roles to play in this fight, and they play them well. And yes, there is a generic replacement for them if they died, but if you think about it, that's how life works. If there wasn't a leader of the Krogan available because you got the previous one killed, would that make sense? Of course not. There must be a leader, and if your choices killed one, then the next one will seem less familiar, and somewhat generic.

The story unfolds in a somewhat linear fashion, with your choices being used to propel differing narratives to the endgame. Many times you must choose between friends and allies, and the decision is almost never easy. You know you need the fleets of the galaxy at your back, but it feels wrong to betray your friends from the previous games to get those fleets. Not all fleets are garnered this way, but several are. Other war assets are easier to procure, like operatives being available. Squadmates who don't join your party will often times become war assets. This helps to build up the overall Total Military Strength, which is then multiplied by the galactic readiness percentage mentioned earlier to create the Effective Military Strength, which is used to determine what ending options are available to you.

That brings us to the ending. I have no doubt that this is one of the game endings people will be talking about for many years. Possibly one of the most polarizing I've ever seen. It really is a love it or hate it type of ending. There is a possibility that the ending is not the true ending to the series, as there will undoubtedly be downloadable content, so concerned or upset fans can take solace in that. The ending could easily ruin the game for some, and just as easily redeem the game for others.

Overall, I give story a 10/10 (Wish I could give it higher praise)

Next is graphics. I won't spend long here. If you liked Mass Effect 2's graphics, then you will like 3. The changes made are minimal, and the graphics seem to have no noticeable problems that were not present in Mass Effect 2.

Sound quality is great. I loved the tense feeling it evokes throughout the game. As always, the sounds of the galaxy are very well presented. Nothing quite so terrifying as that Reaper laser going off right next to you, and the sound it makes is spot on. Musically the game did very well, with some nice musical backdrops to the fighting, and a great theme on the Citadel and the Normandy, as well as during the final moments of the game.

Overall, I give graphics and sound a 9/10

The replay value on this game is very high. What's more, the replay value on the series is very high because of it. Getting all the different choices in subsequent playthroughs to experience all the subtle variations will be fun. I look forward to it as I type this. I cannot stress enough how amazing this title has been for me to play. All of the time it took for me to complete this game (33 hours if you only count Mass Effect 3) has been worth it.

There are so many different variables that make replays worthwhile. Some are small, like the subplot involving your “fan.” Others are larger, like what species ends up in control of a world. It is literally a massive effect for some choices. The amount of backstory on everything is huge as well, and equally intricate. The backstory is affected just as much as the regular story by your choices, and are another great reason to play the game again.

Replay value gets a 10/10

In closing, I'll just say a few things. Mass Effect 3 is not designed to make you feel happy, or really to feel anything in particular. Especially true for those who never played Mass Effect 1 or 2. But if you can honestly say you went through this game without feeling something, you aren't doing it right.
Mass Effect 3 does have its flaws, including possibly the ending. It does have day 1 DLC, and it does have generic characters in case you killed the previous ones. But the full package of the game is good enough to outright dismiss these minor issues. Even the ending can be excused by the overall quality of the game.

Of course, if you took no umbrage with any of these issues, then the game is that much better for it.
All in all, this game is one of the greats. I highly recommend it to anyone who calls themselves a gamer, and to a few who don't. Mass Effect 3 is a high-quality cinematic experience that I would call a must-buy for almost anyone. Even if you don't play video games (why would you be on gamefaqs if you don't?), I recommend watching someone else play through this game, or even watching a playthrough on YouTube. This game is that good. For those that look for that one game, or one movie, that is a generational phenomenon, this is it.

Final score: 9.8/10 (Rounded up instead of down for the front page score)

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/13/12

Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (N7 Collector's Edition) (US, 03/06/12)

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